By Alex Haglund
The Nashville city council meeting on Thursday, May 4, marked more than just the swearing in of new elected officials. The meeting was also the end of Mayor Raymond Kolweier’s time in office in Nashville.
Kolweier took time to talk about some of the things that have happened in the 44 years he has been involved in Nashville city governance, starting with a 20 year run, 1973 to 1993, as a council member; followed by 24 years, 1993 to 2017 as mayor.
Kolweier mentioned the construction of the water plant when he spoke at the May 4 meeting and he stated that as a councilor, he served as chairman of the water and sewer committee.
Before the water plant, “probably the biggest and most important project we took on ourselves was the replacement of cast iron pipes in the water mains with PVC pipes,” said Kolweier.
Kolweier mentions in all of the projects that he had a hand in, he never acted alone, He credits his council, city employees and, as in the case of the water main projects, city managers. The utilities superintendent at that time was Tom McFeron, and the mains replacement was his idea and done following his suggestion.
It took several years to complete and, “we never borrowed a dime or had any grant money from the state,” said Kolweier. “We had trouble with rusty water and once we did this, the quality of water improved.”
The water plant, Kolweier said, was an enormous project, costing several million dollars and the bonds for which won’t be entirely paid until 2022 or 2023 (30 years). The project was begun in 1992, with Kolweier as a councilman, and was completed in 1994, when he was mayor.
Kolweier’s statements show his perspective of himself as a partner, a team member or a facilitator in these projects. While he is plainly proud of what has happened during his time in Nashville, the pride he shows is not for his personal achievements – he seems rather embarrassed that The Nashville News or people in Nashville would make a big deal about that.
Projects and Economic Growth
Kolweier’s pride, again and again talking about these projects and the growth, is pride in what the city, collectively, has done, rather than in what he himself has accomplished.
“By no means do I take credit for all of this,” he said. “Equal credit lays with the councils, the streets and utilities crews and the city managers.”
Another big thing that has come together during Kolweier’s time in Nashville is all of the development north of downtown. Ground was broken on the Nascote plant in 1986, with Ligma, also under Magna, following. Ligma would later become Innertech, then Antolin Grupo/Antolin Nashville – regardless of the names and ownerships though, the plants are in Nashville, helping to provide jobs, utilizing city utilities and boosting our local economy significantly.
“Thank God we had them,” Kolweier said.
Another project, the one that facilitated the plants coming to Nashville, and one that Kolweier has stayed involved with since then, was the Enterprise Zone.
“When Nascote was coming was when we were able to secure an enterprise zone,” said Kolweier. “Without it, we would have never been able to get it.”
“It’s always been the philosophy of the mayor nand the council to do it ourselves.”
And while Kolweier says that he focuses a lot on utilities projects because of his involvement in them and in that committee, the street crews are also responsible for a huge amount of work, including much of what makes Nashville an excellent looking town. – three days a week of trash pick ups, lots of mowing, lots of street sweeping, and even concrete work – the city does its own curbing.
Keeping work and projects local, for the most part anyway, “Lets us do it how we want to do it, when we want to do it,” said Kolweier.
Asking about governing philosphy, Kolweier stresses cooperation and communication with the others in the city – There are disagreements, yes, but he stressed the ability of himself and others to work through them and come to an amicable solution for all involved.
“I’ve always had a good relationship with the council, and I always had a good group of people to work with,” he states, continuing, “I don’t know that we ever had a problem that we couldn’t all get on the same page with.”
“Cooperation of the whole team is what it takes to get things done,” Kolweier said.
Another member of the team, though not city employees, certainly those with a stake in Nashville, comes from the tax base.
“We’ve been solvent all along, Kolweier says, “We have been blessed to have a healthy sales tax income and that is due to our business people in town.”
Freedom is essentially what Kolweier is looking forward to.
“I just will do what I want to do, when I want to do it,” he says. “I plan on enjoying the time off.”
He also stated that he plans to help out friends family and people in general, “however I can,” but adds that he doesn’t mean anything pressing.
“I’m not going to pinpoint any one area that I’ll miss,” he states, but says that he will miss involvement in city government in general.
He will miss the employees that he’s come to know though. “If you’re with a particular group of people for enough time, you feel as if you know them as well as you know your own family.”
Kolweier takes time to state that his decision to not seek reelection wasn’t related to anything negative, but instead, “it was just time to let new blood take over.”
“I have done the best job that I could for the citizens and the city of Nashville,” he says. “And I thank everyone for all of their support through the years.”